Unmasked Eyes

By Sue Chehrenegar

One would not expect a simple costume to offer its wearer a maximum amount of disguise. Yet I wore a very simple costume to the one Halloween party at which I seemed to pose the greatest challenge to those guests intent on unmasking others’ identity.

All of the guests at that particular party were members of Girl Scout Troop # 720. All of the guests, other than the two leaders, were girls in the fifth grade at Central School in Springfield, PA. Among that group of close to 30 girls, I alone had traveled repeatedly over the road between Springfield and York, PA.

Now students of American history may recall that during the Revolutionary War the members of the Continental Congress retreated to York, PA following the “capture” of Philadelphia by the British army. Those leaders had felt safe in York, because it lay west of the Susquehanna River. Lancaster sat on the eastern side of that same River. Today there exists around the city of Lancaster many Amish farms.

Since I grew up in Springfield, a suburb of Philadelphia and since my grandmother lived in York, my family and I had made many trips to York. During those trips we always passed through the Lancaster countryside. From the age of 4 until the age of 18 I saw Amish people in Amish dress and Amish carriages at least twice a year.

I knew well before the release of the film Witness that Amish women wore simple, long-sleeved dresses in a solid color, usually red, purple or blue. I had also observed that over top of those dresses the women wore long, black aprons, and that on their heads they wore large black bonnets. 

One autumn my mother, knowing my grandmother’s love for sewing, suggested that my sister and I might want to dress in Amish costumes, costumes which my grandmother could make for us. We wisely agreed. Our grandmother created two costumes unlike anything that one could by in the store. Neither of those costumes had a mask, but that posed no great problem. A simple black mask over the eyes could be worn over a face already obscured by the large, black brim of the bonnet. Since neither my sister nor I were then wearing braces, our mouths would not give us away. Hence those costumes offered an excellent way for the two of us to create a new sort of Halloween trick.

Guessing who was wearing either of those Amish costumes proved to be a real trick, and one that few people could perform successfully. However, at that Girl Scout Halloween party I found that my mask did reveal my secret. Still, the rest of the costume covered me so completely that only one woman managed to uncover that secret.

I still remember how I stood there while my fellow Scouts walked up to me and examined my costume. I could tell from their comments that they had failed to guess my identity. Then our assistant troop leader stood before me. She made a point of peering into my blue eyes. She later became the one person who was able to guess correctly who I was.

I do not recall anyone else who thought to employ that same tactic. My assistant leader demonstrated the type of observational skills that are so useful in the outdoors. Yet once she had recognized my blue eyes, she kept mum about the facts. That was how one played the “game.”  Our assistant leader had showed us all some of the characteristics that go into being a good Girl Scout. My mask had helped her to accomplish that demonstration.